It takes a strong will and immense talent to live as an artist, considering all of the limitations, competition and difficulties artists face to sell and promote their art. B.Sodnomdarjaa is a dreamer who cultivated his aspiration to become an artist while herding camels in Zavkhan Province in the western part of Mongolia. He actively pursued his dreams since sixth grade and has made a name for himself in the Mongolian art community with his blend of contemporary art and Mongolian cultures.
The 34-year-old artist won the prestigious Grand Prize of the Grand Art Exhibition in Ulaanbaatar in 2010, a year after he graduated as an artist from the Institute of Fine Arts. Since launching his first solo exhibition entitled “Munkh Gal” (Eternal Fire) in 2013, B.Sodnomdarjaa released “Khukh Nar” (Blue Sun) in 2014, “Nar Zuv” (Clockwise) in 2015, and “Human, Sky and Land” in 2018. On the sideline, he released three collaborate exhibitions and participated in over 20 group exhibitions.
Most art enthusiasts and critics recognize B.Sodnomdarjaa through his contribution to Ethnosphere Project, which aimed to promote and raise awareness of Mongolian culture through all forms of art, including paintings and music.
Below is a short interview with Sodnomdarjaa about his childhood and art.
How did you become interested in art?
I herded livestock in Zavkhan Province as a child. I used to herd camels with my father in the Valley of Tal Gurvan Ulaan Mountain in Urgamal soum. My father was a talented painter himself so he used to carry paints and brushes with him all the time. I used to play with them and dreamed of becoming an artist.
I remember myself trying to think of incredible color combinations while watching my father paint. My father used to also paint memorial portraits of people who passed away in the countryside. I would often see his work sitting on top of an avdar (a Mongolian-style cabinet where nomads kept their valuables) when I visited people’s gers. I would appreciate my father’s art skills but also feel a little bit of envy. I was a child back then.
When did you start learning to paint professionally?
I enrolled into the art class of water paint master G.Dondovdorj in Zavkhan Province in sixth grade. One day, my father said to me, “Hey buddy, you’re joining an art class.” In general, my father paved my path as an artist. He helped me discover my interest in art when I was a child and used to take me to see exhibitions by our local art club even if it took us several kilometers to reach with our herd of camels.
There’s something that he told me that I can never forget. He praised that I was good at distinguishing livestock and had keen eyes. Now that I think about it, my father had already knew back then that I would become an artist. I’m happy that I was able to fulfill his dream and continue to develop as an artist.
Which painting do you cherish the most?
There’s a painting of a baby camel called “36 plus ..” that I painted during my freshman year in college. I created it for the annual Altan Biir (Golden Brush) exhibition. It is every freshman’s dream to have their work displayed at this exhibition but I was able to get mine exhibited. It encouraged and motivated me so much.
“36 plus ..” is a contemporary art that shows a calf under a red sun. It helped me determine the kind of art I wanted to do.
How would you describe your art style?
I usually include our traditional culture, history and Mother Nature into my artworks. Nowadays, painting just a mountain is like galloping on a horse across the city. But the most important thing is to merge our Mongolian cultures with modern trends and make it suitable to the taste of young people. Only by doing so can we develop art faster and make it reach a wider audience.